FAMILIES in Dorset are being encouraged to check if they qualify for free school meals.

It is expected more families will be eligible to claim free meals due to the coronavirus pandemic having a huge impact on employment.

The scheme is a vital lifeline for many families across the county and as more people are claiming Universal Credit.

Free school meals are available to children whose parents or carers receive financial support such as Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit.

All children in Reception and Years 1 and 2 qualify for free school meals, regardless of their family income.

Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “I urge all families whose financial circumstances have been affected by the pandemic to check if they are eligible for the scheme. It’s vital that children are fed and that they continue to eat healthily. 

“We know that many people are having to deal with very challenging circumstances and the council is determined to reduce the stresses and pressures on hard-pressed people in our region.”

If a child is eligible for free school meals, they remain eligible until they finish the phase of school they are in on March 31, 2022.

Find out if you are eligible at https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/education-and-training/schools-and-learning/at-school/free-school-meals.aspx